Growing Spartina Pectinata in Previously Farmed Prairie Wetlands for Economic and Ecological Benefits

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Biomass, Biofuel, Wildlife, Establishment, Transplant, Agroecology, Conservation


Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the U.S. are threatened by continued drainage and conversion to cropland. Commercial incentives may increase wetland restoration in lieu of easements. Therefore, we evaluated two commercially available populations of prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata Link) by comparing two planting techniques and identifying zones of maximum plant vigor and biomass production along a wetland-upland environmental gradient of a restored temporary wetland in east-central South Dakota. In the wetland center (maximum water depth: 0.4–0.5 m) plants were effectively established by transplanting, but not by drilling. Both techniques were effective above the wetland center. The zone of maximum vigor varied by year, ranging from the wetland bottom (0.5-m maximum water depth) to 0.25 m above the wetland-upland boundary. Biomass yield did not differ between populations but was affected by elevation. In a second experiment, 2 years after establishing plants by transplanting at 0.9- or 1.5-m spacing, biomass no longer differed between treatments. Our economic analysis indicated establishment costs could be recovered with < 10 years of biomass and seed harvests. Because prairie cordgrass can be established using conventional techniques and provides positive net revenue, it should be considered for incorporation into shallow wetlands in production fields.

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